Finally it’s time to indulge again, with my longest and most dearest live music love affair, the Canadian masters ‘ The Tea Party’. Unbelievably, it’s now 23 years since I first encountered this phenomenal band at our old-school live music venue ‘Selinas’ here in Sydney, and what an introduction it was, an all encompassing musical, religious experience. So much so that I have lost count of how many Tea Party gigs I have been to since then but I know it must be somewhere in the 30 plus bracket (and counting!!) and that’s not including the minimum dozen or so solo Jeff Martin gigs. Such is this deep and everlasting love affair that we Tea Partiers have here in Australia that I honestly cannot envisage a world where I couldn’t get my fix. I wait, like we all wait, ‘When’s the next TP tour???’ , ‘Can Jeff squeeze another solo tour in this year???’ Like a rabid ice addict but oh so much more meaningful and fulfilling!
This spectacular show, with the Sydney Youth Orchestras at the Star Centre in Sydney, had us Tea Partiers in hardcore meltdown mode, as we’ve seen many a show but not one like this. The anticipation was something else, counting down the months until it’s showtime. The Star Centre is such a glorious venue, with top notch acoustics, and just seeing all the instruments on stage made my stomach butterflies take flight. And then it’s time, with the cracking ‘Temptation’ ripping up the stage but in a different way. When you know every song like the back of your hand it’s interesting to be thrown, and not to know what to expect, so I just let the waves sweep me away. Then it was ‘Psychopomp’ time with a killer ending. I was meant to be taking more notes but just couldn’t focus, scribbling the bare minimum in the dark as the night progressed. The Tea Party were in fine form as always and the Orchestras amazing. Loved the string section during ‘Gone’ and of course Jeff’s voice never disappoints as ‘Oceans’ was stunning.
When a band can top a recording with a live version, it’s something else. You know that you are amongst brilliance and, kids, this is how it’s done and this is why we keeping worshipping at this temple. At this stage, I knew I would really love a live recording of this night but that’s pretty standard when discussing The Tea Party, such legendary live performers that you are constantly trying to relive the many moments. The Tea Party Bermuda Triangle is alive and kicking in 2017, just allow yourself to be lost.
From here on we flowed through ‘Correspondences’ and ‘White Water Sirens’ until the magical ‘The Ocean At the End’ took the whole night into a deeper hemisphere. Another stunning arrangement with some more spectacular Jeff guitar solos, absolutely mesmerising. Every band member was on fire and the Orchestras crisp and succinct. This fusion of rock and classical was sheer perfection, I actually forgot I was in a theatre and at a concert with other people, I literally could have been floating in space. This spellbinding continued once opera singer Christine Williams joined the stage for ‘Walking Wounded’. Lush and eerie yet tantalising, all in one, just gorgeous. I needed to be brought back to earth after that and ‘Transmission’ did the trick, in all it’s trippy glory.
We didn’t have to wait long to hear Christine again once ‘Mantra’ ended and it was time for some more sublime torture when ‘Release’ began. Yet another stunning arrangement. This night was like a decadent torte, with the next layer topping the one before, rich and luscious and all you could think of was ‘more please, I’d like to keep gorging’. We all knew once ‘Requiem’ kicked in that some more Tea Party magic was on it’s way. It’s this, that is so hard to explain to the uninitiated. To try and articulate exactly what you are missing is impossible, and believe me, if you’re not here, you are missing out. This Tea Party drug is the only one you will ever need, and it’s not one that requires any treatment.
Once ‘Messenger’ concluded and we had some ‘Heaven Coming Down’ it was time for some more multi dimensional brilliance with a ‘Save Me’ crossed with “Hallelujah’ merge. So many peaks for me, as always during a Tea Party gig, that I couldn’t narrow down any favourite versions at all. Every track was pure magic and these arrangements added a new layer and affection for songs that we already know so well, but of course I’m unashamedly bias. Our last two indulgences for the evening were ‘The Badger’ and “Sister Awake’ which always turns the whole venue into a virtual hypnotising ceremony once those bongos hit the stage. We all melt into a single entity, unanimously dancing and swaying along blissfully with the knowledge that we may finally be sated. Until the next time…. when we need to get our next fix.
How spoilt are we to be able to add yet another feather to our already overstuffed bow here in Australia. This rock and orchestral masterpiece is not one to be missed if you are lucky enough to be able to immerse yourself like we all did and possibly add it to your never ending ‘Tea Party concert list’ . Witnessing one of the best bands ever and hearing one of the top 5 rock voices of all time for the gazillionth time is always an absolute pleasure and I cannot wait to keeping living off of this potent Tea Party oxygen for another 23 years. You may be a trio but you have more depth and talent than most and it is divine intervention that your stars all crossed and that we in Australia got to and still get to drink from your musical fountain. It seems like an infinite lifetime when thinking about this special ‘Tea Party and Australia’ relationship, you are a part of our musical psyche and we salute you, but please don’t you ever go anywhere where we can’t follow, and maybe you should all move here permanently? It’s been one down 2 to go for a very long time… one can only dream!!
© MARINA KNEZEVIC 2017. All rights reserved.
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